Adult vs Child

Apologies for the delay in posting this month's (August) article. I deeply appreciate those of you who comment and participate when I can't to keep our discussion going -- and I especially appreciate those of you who emailed me to make sure I was okay and that my slightly longer than usual absence wasn't indicative of any personal crisis. (It isn't. Just new job, long hours, high stress, etc.)

Several of you wrote comments in response to the prior article that included your thoughts on whether or not women who engaged in DD were adults. This an intriguing issue and it seems worth exploring a bit further.

In interest of stirring up a bit of controversy up front to make things interesting (!), my short response to this is that, no, I do not believe that women (myself included) who engage in DD are adults.

As I've written before in other posts, I believe DD to be, at its heart, a reaction to a deeply felt need for boundaries and accountability that is often absent in our culture, most notably as the result of so-called "progressive" parenting ("DD as a Reaction to Me-Generation Parenting") that emphasizes individual expression and personal freedom over boundaries and consequences. I've also mentioned in prior articles that DD seen in this light is an extremely healthy way for our infinitely-creative psyches to get what's missing in our lives in a way that feels safe, fair and straightforward. (see just about every entry!)

(DD does, of course, have other archetypal origins, and some day I'm actually going to write the article that explores those...)

My underlying theory here is that DD is first and foremost a re-parenting process -- a method of gifting our inner child with the experiences of being held accountable to rules and boundaries. That means that the role of the submissive partner in a DD relationship is at its core that of the externalized inner child. Spanking, scolding, corner time, grounding -- all experiences that are, of course, strongly associated with childhood rather than adulthood.

Being able to safely give up our adult selves to experience this powerful cycle of guilt, justice and forgiveness is, I believe, at the heart of what makes DD so appealing to many women. It's also what separates true DD (real punishments for real misbehaviors) for S&M sex play or disciplinary fantasies). I believe the need for some of us to have it "be real" to be effective is our strongest clue that something developmentally significant -- essential even -- is going on for us.

I believe that to fully understand and benefit from the DD experience requires us to let go of the illusion that women who have a strong need to DD are adults. We are not. If we were, we would already have progressed through the developmental stage that DD fulfills a need for.

Our society has systematically done away with most of the primitive tribal rituals that used to help people transition from childhood to adulthood -- mostly ritual pain experiences that are now viewed as barbaric but serve a critical developmental function of helping us to make the transition to adulthood. As a result, we have an entire culture of people, male and female, who live as adults, are legally considered adults, and have adult bodies and responsibilities, but who fundamentally do not have the emotional maturity and capacity of a fully grown being.

For all kinds of reasons, including social conditioning and weak parenting, they/we are lacking the internalized "strong parent" that is required for the child to become an independent, emotionally self-supporting, confident individual.

Some might be offended at the idea that women who crave DD are child-like. I hope those of you who are feeling a bit offended might re-think any perceptions our society has instilled in us that children are stupid or simple. Children are, in reality, vibrant, creative beings who actively seek out what they need to strive and grow into healthy adults. And women who seek out the loving solution of DD as a way to become healthy adults are demonstrating a striking amount of courage, creativity and resiliency that many others in our culture with similar needs (and that's probably most of us) don't demonstrate.

Most readers will probably agree that DD is one of the most elegant, simple and effective ways of meeting our unmet developmental needs -- of literally turning those of us who look like and live like adults into actual functioning adults by allowing us to turn back the clock to childhood to get the type of discipline and structure we need to complete our journey.

As I experience DD in my real life -- along with that empowering feeling of taking such literal and simple responsibility for my actions -- I can feel myself filling that long-unmet need. I'm literally growing up before my own eyes.

Becoming a real adult instead of a pretend one.


  1. I appreciate your thoughtful approach to the subject. You touch on a number of important issues - reparenting, healing, initiation, development. Thank you.

  2. Vivian,
    Very well-written and provacative as always. I often debate myself on this topic. I used to say that there was nothing wrong with a submissive woman who was interested in d/d and that it didn't make her less strong or mature. But, now I am not so sure. The more I get into d/d, the more I think that strong/mature woman shouldn't need a d/d relationship because they should be able to adjust their behaivor on their own without someone else making them. Of course, my d/d relationship is very untraditional; spanking is something we do to work through arguments and disagreements, to clear the air so to speak. But I do not feel guilty before a spanking, nor do I feel any sense of relief afterwards. I just don't have a guilt complex.

    I don't know where I stand on this issue since I have some very good remale friends in a d/d relationship and they are good women. But my inner strength (or maybe my pride) has trouble balancing submission and discipline with strength, maturity, and equality.

    Thanks for writing such an honest and refreshing post!

  3. Thanks for your comments, Southern Angel.

    One comment back. Your comment, "some very good remale friends in a d/d relationship and they are good women," suggests (perhaps inadvertently?) that women who don't "need" DD for maturity/disciplinary reasons are "good", thus implying that those of us who do have unmet developmental needs and therefore need to work through them with DD are "bad."

    It probably shouldn't go without saying that it's not a question of good/bad. If anything, being brave enough to seek such a creative but socially risky solution to giving ourselves the boundaries we need is a tribute to our character and courage.

    Being willing to face a weakness and take risks to correct is is one of the most difficult and laudable things any of us can do. Women who muster the courage to ask for DD are, in my book, role models to emulate -- especially if they're doing it because they need it to become more integrated, healthy human beings.

    Thanks for reading,

  4. Hi Vivian,
    You are right, good is not at all the word I should have used. I hope you realize that you are a much more eloquent writer than I am, and I was reaching for a word and picked the wrong one. And I misspelled female! This will teach me to comment right before bedtime. Sorry. :)

    To me, there seems to be two types of submissive women in d/d: the woman you mention who is looking for a creative solution to grow and mature. I tend to run across a lot of submissive women online who use d/d as a crutch, ie they need a man to make them do the right thing. These women use their role as the submissive as an excuse for silly behavior and force their partner to take all the responsibility in the relationship.

    I realize that we are talking about two different types of women, so when I refer to a "good woman" I am referring to a woman who accepts responsibility for her actions and weaknesses instead of hiding behind submission and using it as an excuse to behave however she wants. Maybe this is part of my issues with d/d, I see good examples of women in d/d, but I also see a lot of women who make submissive women look bad.

    You make a very good point and I hope I didn't offend you, as that was not my intention. :)

  5. Hi Southern Angel,

    Thanks for clarifying your earlier comment. You didn't offend at all -- I was just looking out for any possible misinterpretations that our critics could use to distort your position. (That's pretty much my day job, so it's habit to look for those things!).

    I think you're absolutely right that some women (and men, of course) use DD in unhealthy ways. The "Loving DD" blog, to me, is an example of what happens what DD goes wrong and becomes a tool to subjugate women and elevate men instead of a healthy way to work out developmental and relationship difficulties.


  6. Southern Angel raises a good point. Is there really a state that d/d leads to? That is, does it really cause a transformation that allows it to be left behind?

    IMHO that sort of change rarely happens in any area of mental health. Most of the people I know who claim any benefit from psychoanalysis, stayed in analysis all their life. They were never "cured" and able to stop. I suspect that spanking is like that. It helps enormously and it can be a really fun thing to live with BUT the spankee never gets enough except temporarily. This is not a fault or a failure but rather typical of how mental health is promoted.

    We don't regard prozac and all the other mental meds as ineffective because the patient has to keep taking them. We don't regard talk therapy as useless because the patient needs and wants to continue. Similarly with spanking, d/d, or whatever we should call it. It is good, it is fun, but it is not like an appendectomy (one of those, properly administered, is enough).

    Best wishes to you both and thanks for your honest dialogue. What a treat -- two of my favorite bloggers talking about my favorite topic!


  7. Anonymous05:05

    Vivian, Thoughtful and provocative as always! I agree with so much of what you say about society and our need for boundaries, our lack of ritual, and the primal needs that Dd meets. I do not however agree with your conclusion that women who 'need' Dd are somehow not grownups. Are the men who provide the spanking then all very much more mature and 'grown up' themselves? This has not been what I have observed.

    I believe we all have an inner child. That part of us exists throughout our lives, within men and women. Growing up Imo is a lifelong process.

    Women who look to Dd do so for a multitude of reasons. Some to continue their development, some to control behavior they are unable to control themselves some because it makes their relationship work and it turns them on.

    While the 2nd reason may be 'childish' I see little difference between those in Dd or out of Dd relationships. There are women who are in typical marriages who's husbands control the checkbook, there is no discipline involved. The checkbook is the husband's because she is not 'self disciplined'. Does this mean she is not a 'grown up'. If you judge people's life skills that way many of us would sadly come up short.

    In truth, I do agree there is a lack of maturity found in the 'me generation' their offspring. None the less, I believe the concept of being a "grown up" is a fantasy of childhood. When we are small we believe that when we are 10, or 16 or 18 or 25...then we will be a "grown up"... in control, in charge, no longer uncertain and insecure...i.e. no longer childlike compared to the parent or adult we view as a "Grown up" with a capitol G. As we mature one of the shocks of life is that being grown up is not what we thought, , that we cannot do what we want, feel in control all the time, no longer feel small or insecure at times. We learn that life is full of growing and developing, if we are lucky until our dying day.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post! Sara

  8. Anonymous14:03

    Thanks for an interesting article. I happen to agree with your point. And would add something else to it.

    For me at least, dd certainly does have very clear undertones of re-parenting dynamics. And although that was something I struggles with accepting in the begining, I know see it as on of dd's greatest gifts. My husband creates a sense of safety and security with the rules that he chooses to impose. And that does indeed make him feel parental, and me feel very childish at times.

    But it's often that childish feeling, that lets me most deeply and honestly access my feminine soul. It allows me to stop acting tough, and to feel soft and submissive. And that is a gift.

    But it is a gift that is much harder to access when I fight the childish nature of dd, or when I fight feeling like my husband is acting as, and has the same power over me as a father has over a little girl. But when I embrace those aspects of dd- I find I get much more out of the experience, and that I grow and mature in ways I missed when I really was a little girl.

    Thanks again Vivian, for such a great topic.

  9. Anonymous12:22

    I've read and reread this article now a handful of times, and I'm still conflicted about the argument you make. Before I get started, let me just preface this with the disclaimer that my tone of voice should be read as inquisitive - not accusatory or critical!

    I can't say that I agree and I can't say I think you're totally off base either. In fact, I believe that depending on the dynamics of the individual relationship, your argument that a woman who chooses DD is not grown up could very well be accurate. It might even be accurate for me, but I haven't thought it through yet.

    However, I think it's somewhat dangerous to lump us all in together in the category "women who choose DD" - we don't all need/want this for the same reasons, nor is the way DD manifests itself in our individual relationships all that similar half the time.

    I'd like to take some time and really think through how your article might pertain to me, but as of right now, what I know about myself is that:

    Growing up, I had a lot of boundaries - felt very safe and loved and encouraged at the same time to be independent and self-sufficient. I don't really agree that DD fulfills something that was missing in my childhood.

    What it does do for me is provide an environment where I can be soft and feminine and cared for -- things we are now taught grown up independent women should NOT want or need. But just because these things are out of vogue doesn't mean that wanting them makes us children or shows some stunted emotional growth.

    Does this mean that all of the women who were alive and disciplined by their husbands prior to the 60s remained children? I realize of course, that you are referring to those of us who clearly choose DD now that men can no longer legally do so, but perhaps those of us who prefer this more traditional way are simply more fulfilled in a different culture from a different time period.

    I can certainly adjust my behavior on my own without Adam making me. And yet, I chose to bring DD to the table because being self-sufficient wasn't making me happy.
    I can do it all myself. I've done it. And I think that has a large part to do with why I want this. I simply want a man who is stronger than I am. It feels very natural to me to follow a male leader/provider. I cannot do that unless he asserts some form of dominance in our relationship.

    Is the reason I want a male-lead marriage because I'm a child? Or is it because it is the natural hierarchy of our species?

    Now, one might argue that we can have male-lead marriages without the spanking, and I think that's 100% correct. But does there not have to be some kind of consequence for skipping rank? For those of who choose DD, it's physical correction. (And lambast me if you will, but I bet the percentage of those of us who choose DD and are not spankos is tiny.) We respond to it best. For others in traditional relationships with no spanking, the correction of a raised voice or message of "disappointment" might be enough. Many women choose male-led relationships for religious reasons; I don't think that makes them childish.

    I'll also be very honest in admitting that if the whole idea of marital discipline wasn't a turn on to begin with (even though in the moment of a punishment I always wonder why I think that) I wouldn't be able to accept it. His taking me in hand makes me more attracted to him, makes me more feminine and vulnerable, makes me need him more... I really wonder if it is less about being childlike than it is a deep seated need to be a female - gentle, supportive, nurturing, and deserving of care.

    And then again, add in that darned spanking - the humiliation that comes with it, and I have to wonder, why spanking then? Why not just surrender to the femine pull on your own? Why need this kind of physical correction and not some other? I know for me, I need Adam to pull me out of my academic head away from the Women's Studies mantras and drill into my backside that it is okay to need him and okay to be cared for. I need to physical connection to let go and be a female. But I can only speak for myself.

    I just don't know Vivian. It would be cool if we could do a psychological study, wouldn't it? Get at the developmental histories of us all and see if there is some common denominator!

    Thanks for the thought-provoking topic! I think I'll be blogging about this in more depth soon!


    1. Anonymous00:13

      I like women to react like women and men like men. When your husband spanks you he restores the natural order and relieves you of guilt. Most women prefer a sore bottom to a guilty conscience, and the spankings free you of your feeling of guilt and makes you connect on a closer level - especially after the spanking - making up and making love. Thanks for your insight - and I hope you will go more into depth wit the topic as you hinted. :-)

    2. Anonymous00:14

      I like women to react like women and men like men. When your husband spanks you he restores the natural order and relieves you of guilt. Most women prefer a sore bottom to a guilty conscience, and the spankings free you of your feeling of guilt and makes you connect on a closer level - especially after the spanking - making up and making love. Thanks for your insight - and I hope you will go more into depth wit the topic as you hinted. :-)

  10. Anonymous02:29

    Thanks all of you for your comments which I have read with interest.

    They have helped me understand why my wife will never want any form of DD or erotic spanking, and that is that she does not desire softness or femininity, or any of the feelings which go with them, and places no value on them.

    Thanks again


  11. Thanks for your comment, opb. Don't give up on your wife -- I spent many, many years fighting my own softness and femininity (and still do much of the time, which is why DD is so powerful for me) out of fear of being too vulnerable and open to hurt.

    You may find that, ultimately, it's those of us who are afraid of our softer side that are ultimately the most responsive to and grateful for DD -- as we need it the most!


    PS -- Thanks for your thoughtful comments via email. I haven't had a chance to post them, but I will do so as soon as I can.

  12. Anonymous02:31

    Thanks Viv.


  13. Vivian -- you say that with the presence of DD in your life, fulfilling your long unmet need, you are "growing up before your eyes." Would one conclude, then, that there will come a point where you will no longer need DD in your life or your relationship? Is it a reasonable extension, based on your premise here, that you will eventually achieve a level of psychological maturity equivalent to what you should have acquired as a growing child, and then be able to dispense with discipline applied externally within your relationship? That is the outcome that parenting generally aims for, and presumably, that would be the end-game for DD applied as you describe here.


  14. Hi Swan,

    Great question (and one that I should perhaps have addressed in my article).

    I expect that ideally, yes, DD would eventually teach me to internalize a strong, loving inner parent and my need for it would vanish.

    However, I doubt that will happen and I doubt it happens for most of us.

    First, most of us, myself included, have sexualized discipline so intensely that even if the developmental need were eliminated, it would likely still be a sexual turn on in another, more role playing context.

    Second, the reality is that most of us are not success in fully reparenting ourselves and repairing psychological damage. The scars in my childhood run so deep that I find it difficult to believe that I could ever fully parent myself as I would have had I had healthy parenting role models. I expect that while my need for DD might diminish over time, it will never completely disappear.

    Great questions!


  15. Anonymous22:51

    you still there?

  16. I am indeed still here, thank you!

    I'm wrapping up a major campaign and am hoping very much to post a new article soon

    Thanks for reading and commenting!


  17. Anonymous05:43

    Hi, I found your web-site while searching for answers about my receipt of childhood and teenage punishments by women whom I now understand as dominants and disciplinarians. I was attracted to your article 'adult vs child.'

    By way of a brief background.
    Beatings at home, until age 12, were obligatory and accepted as the norm. Confusion began to arise when other kids at school got detention, but I was sent to ms martin for 'real punishment'. The confusion and extreme embarrassment were both magnified when the 'real punishment' continued well past pubity, until I left primary school at age 15.

    My high school years were incident free, and after the completing of schooling, I went to work and was obliged to find lodgings. In answer to a newspaper advertisement, I found myself being interviewed by a matronly lady who showed me around the house; told me what my duties and what her expectations would be. Her final words were that she was a disciplinarian and that non compliance would not be tolerated, and did I understand clearly. Of course I did, I was 17 and almost grown up.

    I moved in, and it was not long before I learnt the literal and applied meaning of the word disciplinarian. Only one brief detail might be necessary here. Friday night became discipline night and my only prescribed (proscribed)garment, for the whole evening, was a pyjama shirt, until the be-twitching hour of 9:00pm.

    Punishment at home and school were imposed. But I am unable to really answer to myself why I voluntarily stayed, for 4 years, with a disciplinarian who regularly administered comparatively severe B/B whippings; regularly more than once a week.

    My initial answer, rationalization self justification, was that I needed a place to lodge, but I could easily have gone to the news papers again. Throughout my inquiry, I have learnt that Yes, punishment is cathartic; it also garnishes the soul of guilt; it creates a sense of acceptance; and yes, one does capitulate to, and create a bond with their intimidator / dominator.

    I am not in what you term a D/D relationship and am quite surprised, without any prejudice, to read that couples, in what I assume are committed relationships, seemingly cheerfully, participate in mature age b/b punishment. Apart from a six week epic (a daily event which got too much for me) with a lesbian many years ago, I have regarded all this stuff as being in the past; or so I thought: here I am writing about it.

    The defining question for me is that while I am exclusively heterosexual, I have much difficulty in relating to heterosexual members of the opposite sex, other than at arms length. I view my psyche as being somewhat damaged by my past, but after reading some of your articles, I am not so sure.

    Any feed-back is welcome.

  18. Renee11:04

    I just found this blog recently (actually it was gifted to me by a friend). I love your writing. There are so many articles in which the feelings and thoughts could have been pulled straight out of my head!

    I realize that this article was written quite some time ago, and maybe your views have changed?

    I have grappled with this question (I was going to say, "you don't know how many times", but I'll guess you do!), and at times have come to the same conclusion as you. But, after reading your post and sitting with it several days, I must say that I completely disagree.

    I am an adult, with adult responsibilities, in adult situations, with adult responses and a lifetime of knowledge to guide me. I find it nearly impossible to believe that in the time that I have been on this Earth, having opportunity after opportunity to learn, at times difficult, life lessons, that I have not managed to earn that title - even if I don't always want it.

    We all have an inner child that wants and needs to be honored. While many never give theirs any air, it is not unreasonable or unhealthy to let your inner child "play". Whether or not actual play is in store (if I recall, it usually comes later . . . sometimes MUCH later ><), I think there is value in understanding and embracing every part of who we are.

    I know that some never allow their inner child to be, perhaps don't even acknowledge its existence. So, in the eyes of those I can certainly see how honoring your inner child = being a child.

    Anyway, thank you so much for having taken the time to share your experience and view point. It is an amazing service you do and I am truly grateful for being guided here.

  19. Thanks for reading and commenting!

    To answer your question, while the article was written some time ago, my views on this issue have't changed. If anything, my personal experience has demonstrated even more clearly to me than ever that I have often used DD as a way to reparent myself, expecting someone else to take responsibility for behaviors and boundary setting that I should have learned long ago and didn't -- and that it's largely this dependence on someone else that keeps me a child.

    Is there a way to have DD and be an adult? I'd like to believe so, given its powerful archetypal associations with sex roles and power and its capacity to heal and change relationships -- but sorting out why we desire discipline is part of the fascinating, complex, paradoxical nature of all of this. Perhaps that's the subject of the next book...


  20. Anonymous13:25

    Legal adults may do as they please, wether or not they are objectively mature enough to make their own decisions,and if your DD relationship suits you congratulations.
    My beef with your article is the implication that good parenting necessarily involves physical punishment.
    I have smacked my kids on(rare)occasions,to compel them to act or desist, but my blood runs cold at the thought of spanking children as a punishment, something I have never done nor would ever do.
    Strictly for consenting adults imo and otherwise very dubious indeed.
    I am offended by the notion that this makes me a "weak parent". I regard myself as a good father and my children, who are more or less of age now, are a testament to that. I enjoy a good relationship with them and they are a great source of pride.
    Otherwise a good and interesting discussion. I liked the comments regarding our inner child and growing up being a lifelong process.
    I don't assume you regard men as being better or faster in this process. I suppose it's simply that you are heterosexual and your chosen partner meets your needs.
    al-pal, what an extraordinary young life you led! Interested to know if you are male or female? JJ

  21. Anonymous21:42

    Good Evening, Vivian,

    I am sorry I didn't find your spot here sooner. There is much here that is thought-provoking and revelatory for me. I'm trying to decide whether I should just tell my wife or show it to her, or leave something open so she's sure to see it.

    See, now that's that that rotten inner child at work, always conniving!

    I only found this spot last week-how old are some of these posts/

    Thanks, Mike.........